Lakota board cancels tonight’s meeting, instead will hold ‘respect, civility’ discussion with public

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel was asked to leave the Oct. 11, 2021, school board meeting after he questioned the board on its mask mandate policy. The board cited Mandel was not a resident of the district. Residents or designees of residents are permitted to speak, according to the district. A woman said she designated Mandel to speak on her behalf, but the board said she "yielded" her time and did not formally designate him. SCREEN CAPTURE/TWITTER.COM/JOSHMANDELOHIO
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U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel was asked to leave the Oct. 11, 2021, school board meeting after he questioned the board on its mask mandate policy. The board cited Mandel was not a resident of the district. Residents or designees of residents are permitted to speak, according to the district. A woman said she designated Mandel to speak on her behalf, but the board said she "yielded" her time and did not formally designate him. SCREEN CAPTURE/TWITTER.COM/JOSHMANDELOHIO

The governing board for Lakota schools has canceled its meeting scheduled for tonight and the district will instead hold a “community conversation” on the topic of civility in public discussions of school issues.

Lakota district officials announced late afternoon Friday the public discussion featuring small and large group discussions open to community members on the topic of “communicating with one another with respect and civility in a divisive time.”

Lakota ― and other school boards locally and across the nation ― have recently seen some school parents and residents sharply criticizing their elected board members on a variety of contentious issues.

ExploreLocal school boards see more verbal clashes over masks, other issues at meetings

Public complaints have generally centered on student masking policies and vaccination requirements during the pandemic, transgender student policies and in some cases ― including in Lakota schools ― accusations of the alleged teaching of variations of Critical Race Theory (CRT) to students.

At its last meeting on Oct. 11, Lakota board members responded by temporarily going into a short recess from its public meeting when Ohio U.S. senatorial candidate Josh Mandel ― speaking in violation of the meeting’s designated public comment rules ― attempted to voice his opposition to student masks.

ExploreWhat happened with Josh Mandel at the Lakota school board meeting? Video and interviews detail events

Lakota’s spokeswoman Betsy Fuller later described Mandel’s actions as a “staged event meant to disrupt a public meeting.”

When asked by the Journal-News if the cancelation of tonight’s previously scheduled Lakota Board of Education meeting was prompted by, or in part by, Mandel’s appearance and subsequent escort from the meeting by Butler County Sheriff deputies, Fuller said it was not.

“The topic, communicating with respect and civility in a divisive time, was actually suggested during a school board meeting by (member) Lynda O’Connor.

“With the current discourse in our community, our region and even across our state and country, the topic is particularly timely. This is especially true as our students, our kids, are watching how people speak to one another and look to adults in their lives to be role models,” she said.

The community conversation events have been periodically conducted by Lakota officials for years on a variety of topics with a hired facilitator coordinating the discussions held by participants sitting in groups around tables.

The event is at 6:30 p.m. at Lakota Plains Junior School, 5500 Princeton Road in Liberty Twp.

“Monday’s community conversation will kick off the 10th year of this board’s listening program. The board decided to replace the originally scheduled (board meeting) work session with the community conversation because the work session did not have a determined topic and our facilitator was available,” Fuller told the Journal-News.

Unlike the regular, twice-a-month or more Lakota public school board meetings, the district’s community conversation will not be recorded or broadcast live ― or on a delayed basis ― online.

“We do not record our community conversations. Notes will be posted to the (Lakota) website within a few days of the program,” she said.

Lakota officials ask those wanting to attend tonight’s meeting to register on the district’s website to help them better plan the event.

“We strongly encourage all attendees to wear a mask or face covering,” said Fuller.

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